Among throngs of people touring the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center on Sunday were two lanky middle school girls who love to talk about religion.
“What do you believe?” they often ask each other.
Mary Matero, 12, is Catholic and lives in West Roxbury. Mareyama Jalloh, 13, is Muslim and lives in East Boston. The girls met last fall during orientation at John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Roxbury.
They each found it funny how similar their names were and how much they have in common.
Both seventh-graders wear glasses and are a little shy. Both love to hang out and buy bubble tea in Chinatown. At Christmas, they exchanged presents and they hope to celebrate Ramadan together.
On Sunday afternoon, Jalloh showed Matero her mosque.
“I was nervous,” Jalloh said. “Then I opened up and learned new things about my religion.”
On the second annual Open Mosque Day, more than 21 mosques across Massachusetts were scheduled to open their doors Sunday afternoon to people of all backgrounds so they could meet their Muslim neighbors, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Massachusetts.
“We really wanted to support the idea that people should visit the mosque,” said Rabbi Michael Shire of Needham, who visited the ISBCC with his 96-year-old mother, Ruth Shire. “This dialogue between different faiths is important.”
Tours were given of the mosque on Malcolm X Boulevard in Roxbury, where classes were given on the Islam religion, and activities such as henna and calligraphy were featured.
Just before 5 p.m., many gathered to observe afternoon prayers.
“I think it’s nice to learn about religions other than your own,” said Mary Matero. “So you’re more open and see how other people worship.”
“It’s a really lived experience of the Muslim community,” said Yusufi Vali, executive director at the ISBCC. “The real benefit of this is people get to meet real people and make their own judgements about who Muslims are.”
Eight-year-old Kasim Kulovic was among people giving roses to visitors.
“Thank you for coming,” he said to them with a smile.
“I want him to feel proud of his identity,” said the boy’s father, Kemal Kulovic, of Arlington.“I teach him to be nice and merciful to others, to serve others, to help others, to be on his best behavior, to be the best person he can be.”
Cristela Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @CristelaGuerra.